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The Last Mission

Fewer than eight hours were left before the end of the world, and Jamie still had one thing left to do. Two, if she could accomplish the first one quickly enough.

The flash drive was in a safe in Henry Fouran's bedroom, wrapped in a protective sheath of copper mesh and aluminum. To get past the mansion's security Jamie had been forced to leave her weapons and tools behind, but her contact lenses and a transparent false skin glove, manufactured from surveillance photographs capable of capturing the details of iris stroma and fingerprint whorls from dozens of yards away, easily bested the safe's biometric security.

The Legion's psychological profilers lived up to their reputation: it took her less than fifteen minutes to crack the combination based on the numbers they had given her. She called the secure line immediately. "I have it."

"Good. I'll see you at Alpha Base."

When Jamie had accepted this mission, she'd known that she was agreeing to leave her old life behind. But she had also privately promised herself that she would try to see her brother one last time. "There's something I need to do first."

There was a slight pause. "Jamie, you understand how much is depending on you."

"I have to make another stop."

"We're past Plan B. This is Plan C. Without Fouran's algorithm, no one's waking up from the stasis chambers."

"Caleb—" Before she could finish, she heard the bedroom door open. She ended the call and started to move to the bathroom door, but she was too late.

Fouran glanced between Jamie and the open safe. He carried a nine millimeter and wore a bulletproof vest. It was likely he had additional killing implements in his belt and boots. She had never met him before, but by reputation he was a big believer in overkill. "Toss me the drive."

Jamie's necklace and earrings contained recording devices, and her dress pants and blouse were fireproof and would stiffen their weave to resist blades, but she didn't have anything to fight back with.

Why not tell him? What did it matter now?

"The end is coming. The best actuarial computers have enough data and processing power now that they're essentially prediction machines. The reinsurance companies came to us when they realized they couldn't cover the disasters they expected. Mutually reinforcing drivers of conflict, with the widespread use of nanospheres and pulse-nukes and biobombs. Civilization won't recover. But there's still hope for the species."

Fouran was listening, not moving, his attention no longer on the gun that was still pointed at her chest.

"Some of us are preparing," she said. She hadn't realized until that moment how desperate she was to explain what she was doing. To justify it. "We're going to sleep deep underground. If we're there long enough and retain the right resources then when we wake up we might be able to start to rebuild."

She hadn't expected him to believe her. But something about her words or delivery must have been convincing. "You're telling me we're all going to die, but you're going to live? You're saving yourselves, but you couldn't come up with a way to save anyone else?"

"We have enough resources for our agents. Everyone entering has training and a particular purpose."

"Let me come."

"I can't do that."

"Kill one of the agents. Let me go in his place."

"I can't do that."

Understanding broke. "That's why you need my code. For your hibernation chambers." He nodded, watching her face. "I think that means I've bought my ticket."

"It's not my choice."

He brandished the gun. "Come over here."

She breathed deeply and walked to him.

He lifted a pair of handcuffs. "Hold your hands forward." She did so. He pushed one of the open cuffs to her right wrist.

Jamie let herself fall forward, inside his reach, and threw all of her weight onto her right heel. She drove the spike through his boot. Fouran screamed. Jamie wrenched her foot out of the stiletto, kicked off her other shoe and ran.

An hour later she was at her brother's house. They drank mojitos and watched the sun come up.

"How's Carla doing?" Jamie asked him.

He shook his head. "It didn't work out."

Jamie almost told him he'd find someone else. She took another drink and glanced at her watch.

Two hours. If there was traffic, if she was pulled over by an overzealous police officer, if something unexpected happened—and two hours was based on probabilities, not predictions. They might have a little more time, or a little less.

She looked at her brother, at his intelligent yet reliably optimistic face. She could stay, and this would be the end. She would leave this life with all the other billions, next to the person who had always watched out for her. She could let this be the way it finished. Or she could leave as she already should have, get to Alpha Base before its gates were sealed, go to sleep in this world and wake up in a different one, in which every record of human domination was a thousand years in the past.

She set down her glass. There was a third option.

"Is something wrong?" her brother asked.

Would two hours be enough time to get back to Fouran's house and send him on to Alpha Base? That was the only question. She had no doubt that she could sneak him inside in her place. It was unlikely she would be able to make it back here no matter what happened, so she pushed that thought out of her mind. As for whether it was worth the gamble—he was right. He had bought his ticket.

But her throat got tight every time she tried to answer her brother's question. Finally she gave up and just squeezed his hand. "It's time for me to go," she said.

About the Author
Aaron Emmel has stories in numerous magazines and anthologies. He is the author of the science fiction gamebook series Midnight Legion. You can find him online at www.aaronemmel.com.
Background image by ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron.
http://www.eso.org/public/images/etamosaicnm2/, CC BY 4.0, Link